A problem with writing about business travel is that sometimes you can’t name the parties, Rambler maintains. Such trips are maintained to be solely for business. But experiencing new cultures always exposes new things to see and it challenges a rambler to find the new ways needed to see them.
Rambler maintains that these ramblings solely represent the rambler’s biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual people, places and events and does not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of other ramblers. Rambler maintains, to remind and warn you, that these ramblings may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual people, places and events or experiences of this or any other rambler.
How can you talk about a taxi driver who warns of snipers when you pull out a camera to take a photograph of a presidential Palace? Do you think that the taxi driver was assigned by accident? And if that was not the case, would you think that the authorities did not know your every move? Some maintain this is a legacy of being at the one-time locus of global espionage.
Imagine a city that has grown through two millennia yet looks very new. Can you imagine a city where newlyweds stream to memorialise the building blocks of their lives with wedding photos taken beside the memorial to the 1966 earthquake that eradicated their past. Rambler has heard it maintained that 30,000 labourers came from gulags all over the USSR to rebuild the new city.
Do you talk about a minister who might come for dinner and spend 90 minutes proposing toasts of welcome and fellowship, each of which require a response and reciprocal toast? How do you talk about someone who may have sketched the Himalayan mountains and the orogenies that caused them, drawing a figure among geoscientists who live with the constant tremors that presage another disaster? It was after the toasts were ended by a summons to return to the duties and affairs of state, Rambler maintains, that the ephemeral sketch was made on the restaurant tablecloth.
Speaking of restaurants, in a family riddled with cancer, Rambler maintains that it’s hard not to go to a restaurant that’s called Tumor. There, a large lamb plov may have awaited us. And Rambler also maintains there’s a Caravan that specialises in Norin with Qazi, the traditional salad of cold noodles with horse meat sausage.
Imagine a colleague bumping into an official from a global football organisation who insisted in comping your group tickets to an undersold club international. How do you mention that this created the opportunity to see how a police state manages a football crowd? Rambler maintains it was done from the front, the many uniformed police and plain clothed agents watching and photographing everything other than the football, as it happens (sic).
Can you imagine a bright and glamorous woman on your team who is able to make mental leaps to inferences and conclusions not yet recognised by your hosts? Imagine that the hosts spend the first few days trying to overcome their certainty that this young woman is ‘only’ the translator. In cases, like this, Rambler maintains, the gender balance at meetings will change as the more titular men are replaced with the women who have done their technical work.
Imagine a charming septuagenarian scientist dressed in a shimmering blue caftan walking into a room with two very elegantly dressed nurses on either side. Rambler maintains that the foreigners had to overcome their own prejudices in recognising these women as competent laboratory technicians, dressed in medical whites that were the only available laboratory couture.
How do you talk about finding yourself surrounded by one star US military at breakfast in a five star hotel? Each serving unit was immaculately turned out and sharply coiffed and the hierarchy was emphatically obvious, among waiters and soldiers both. Rambler maintains that the soldiers’ fatigues were ironed with razor creases.
Imagine that currency exchange for the American military dollars yields a kilo of notes for the one $50 bill? It might be like buying fish at the market, an exchange of a few sheets of paper for a few kilos of fish. Which, Rambler maintains, isn’t so odd since the currency is known as fish.
Imagine visiting a weekend market where oddments like scrimshaw Lenins and bears, Stalin busts, used rubber gloves or vials of rendered dog fat compete for your attention with decades old Soviet styled bric-a-brac and newly caged song birds. Lambs guts are sold by the metre nearby, Rambler maintains.
Imagine a name that suggests itself after a habit of foaming at the mouth in the apoplectic rages for not being taken seriously. Rambler maintains you are imagining meeting a man called Bubbles. Imagine predicting a rage that would surface in subsequent discussions because there was nothing he would say that was material. Rambler maintains, harshly perhaps, that it would be very hard to forget a person like Bubbles.
Can you imagine a fruit stall with beautiful persimmons? Once eaten, the seeds could be brought home and germinated in large pots in the bathroom. They might grow vigorously in just a few months, become big leaved and need to be transplanted to an outdoor space. Unfortunately, Rambler maintains, a new climate would kill them.
Imagine being in a country where your handphone tells you more than the citizens are allowed know. It might be a state where, for example, location information in the form of geographics and coordinates might be treated as a state secret. Incoming nuclear missiles would be guided by maps so it’s probably best if the citizens don’t know that the rest of the world already knows where they live. It is often said that there is no state paranoia, Rambler maintains.
You can imagine a state that looks after the welfare of its citizens with free gas delivered to warm every home. Water would be unfortunately expensive because it’d be diverted to irrigate an empire’s supply of cotton that would, Rambler maintains, make the clothes to warm many citizens.
Imagine that undefeated Timur, who named himself the ‘Sword of Islam’ is the much vaunted national hero. His grandson Uleg Bek is reputed to have had a teacher who advised that ‘Where knowledge starts, religion ends’. Uleg Bek was an astronomer to rival Keplar and Copernicus. His premature imagining of an end to religion would have led, Rambler maintains, to being assassinated by his own son in 1449 to satisfy the orthodoxy. A visit to an Uleg Bek Museum should be worth a return.
Antonio Tabucchi, the Italian author of Pereira Maintains (1994) died in 2012. Rambler maintains there is no coincidence in his own imagining such a place as might be visited sometime.